CLEMSON - Welcome to the real world, Tajh Boyd.
2014 In-state NFL draftees
Players from South Carolina colleges selected in the 2014 NFL draft:
Sammy Watkins: WR, Buffalo Bills (Round 1, fourth overall): $19.9 million, all guaranteed ($12.8 million signing bonus)
Brandon Thomas: OL, San Francisco 49ers (Round 3, 100th overall): $2.8 million, $506,000 guaranteed signing bonus
Bashaud Breeland: CB, Washington Redskins (Round 4, 102nd overall): $2.71 million, $486,000 guaranteed signing bonus
Martavis Bryant: WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (Round 4, 118th overall): $2.66 million, $439,000 guaranteed signing bonus
Tajh Boyd: QB, New York Jets (Round 6, 213th overall): $2.3 million, $78,680 guaranteed signing bonus
Jadeveon Clowney: DE, Houston Texans (Round 1, first overall): $22.3 million, all guaranteed ($14.5 million signing bonus)
Bruce Ellington: WR, San Francisco 49ers (Round 4, 106th overall): $2.69 million, $474,428 guaranteed signing bonus
Dakota Dozier: OL, New York Jets (Round 4, 137th overall): $2.52 million, $300,000 guaranteed signing bonus
Leasing an apartment as a young professional in his new city will cost Boyd three times the monthly rent the former Clemson quarterback's parents pay near his college town - for a house close to three times the size of his new digs.
Obviously, it costs a lot more to live in the New York City area than Seneca. That's a given.
But the truth is, most football players recently drafted or signed by NFL teams can't just plunk down whatever cash they want on the good life. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
Boyd, selected in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the New York Jets, has a keen sense of his limitations as a pro athlete enjoying fame before riches.
"Just like studying your playbook or your classes in college, you have to study the finances of the world," Boyd said, "because you'll blow through it before you even know it."
Statistics back that up. Sports Illustrated reported in 2009 that 78 percent of NFL players are bankrupt or financially stressed within two years of retirement.
They get by
Boyd doesn't find himself in a precarious position. His star power from college, and the city he lives in now, could lend the 2012 ACC Player of the Year earning power off the field via marketing and endorsement opportunities.
For now, Boyd is living on $78,680 and a prayer.
If Boyd survives preseason cuts and makes the 53-man active roster, his $420,000 salary spread over 17 weeks this fall won't exactly secure him for life.
But it's not a bad life, either, says Rodney Thomas, co-founder of Dimensional Sports Inc. (Boyd's agency).
"They get per diems, they have no costs, the housing's free. It's not a tough life," Thomas said with a chuckle. "It's not like he's walking around eating Oodles and Noodles. They do OK. It's not that bad."
Monster signing bonuses for top picks like South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney ($14.5 million) or Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins ($12.8 million) potentially set them up for life.
Middle-round selections like Clemson cornerback Bashaud Breeland ($486,000 signing bonus) and South Carolina receiver Bruce Ellington ($474,428) - both fourth-round picks in the NFL Draft - are rewarded nicely. But after taxes, representative fees and other expenses associated with playing pro football, the dollars drain quickly.
Then there are undrafted free agents like Connor Shaw, the winningest quarterback in South Carolina history, who signed a three-year deal with the Cleveland Browns. Terms are not disclosed for unsigned free agents, but usually signing bonuses are minimal - in the $10,000 range - in addition to the league minimum wage of $420,000, if he makes the team.
Nickeled and dimed
Up until the NFL Draft, players only are lent allowances by their agents to pay for training and living costs, which usually covers a little shopping or a few nights at the movies and little else. Once signed with an NFL team, the journey begins to secure one of those coveted 53 roster spots.
"They've got to work their butts off," said sports agent Joel Turner, who represents Shaw, "and they've got to do it for very little pay."
Under the most recent collective bargaining agreement from 2011, during summer minicamps NFL rookies are entitled to per diems of $145 for up to 60 days.
Rookies earn $1,000 per preseason game. If a player gets cut by the team, his contract is voided. From there it's off to a practice squad, which pays roughly $5,000 per week with no health insurance or employee/union benefits.
"These guys are not on the team," Turner said of late-round draft picks and free agents. "Unlike every other pro sports industry out there where their contracts are guaranteed, ours are not."
Scott Jarred has been an NFLPA-certified financial adviser for three years. In that time, he's seen it all as the owner of Jarred Bunch Consulting based in Indianapolis.
"Guys will go out and buy motorcycles and jet skis and a house, and if all of a sudden they find out they are cut, they'll try to find someone to buy this stuff," Jarred said. "'Can you buy my jet ski? Can you buy my car? Can you buy my wife's diamond ring?' Things might work out. Things might not."
One of Jarred's guidelines for rookies: If you're not a third-round pick or better, do not go buy a house.
"You've just got to try to keep their expectations on track," Jarred said. "Think of a late-round guy who's getting $2 million over four years. The reality is if they manage their money right, I tell them, 'Look, you can only spend about $5,000 a month.'"
Thomas holds degrees from Harvard and Georgetown, and also works as an equity trader, so his business is money. However, agents aren't allowed under NFLPA guidelines to manage players' budgets or even share much advice beyond common sense.
"Hopefully the guys you deal with have good parents or somebody in their life to help them as well," Thomas said. "But in some cases, you may have parents that want money or need money, and the kid's got to deal with that stuff. It becomes kind of a circus.
"That's when it's good to have a financial adviser in place to say no," Thomas continued. "He'll be the bad guy. It's good to have somebody in place at that point to be the pit bull or the gatekeeper in that situation."
'Learn to say no'
Friends, family and hangers-on tirelessly support famous athletes, when often the motive is to look out for themselves.
"These guys are targets right when they get in the limelight," Jarred said. "Sometimes guys are extorted. A girl says, 'Hey, some things might have happened and I'm going to let the media know unless you pay me money.' It's just unbelievable. There's tons of that stuff.
"They are targets - from friends, from girls you don't know. It's scary."
Breeland, who was picked in the fourth round by the Washington Redskins, isn't concerned about getting distracted from his goal.
"I really don't worry about it," Breeland said. "You've just got to learn to say no, because if you're worrying about taking care of anybody right now, you're not going to be able to do it and you're going to drain yourself."
Jarred's advice: "You've got to look at it like you're retired in three years; what's it going to look like? You have to be very cautious of these people who come after you and say, 'I need this, I need this, I need this.'"
Even advisers have taken advantage of their clients. Jarred recalled a story of a high draft pick with a $10 million contract nearly a decade ago, whose first adviser ripped him off and then sued the player.
"You really don't want to give anyone freedom of power over your money, or power of attorney because some bad things will happen," Boyd said. "You should be able to pay your own bills."
Except for those instant millionaires, players who start spending without a frugal mind are taking a risk.
"We tell every single rookie we sign - draft picks or not - you do not have the money to go buy a car. Don't do it. You don't. That's just what it is," Turner said. "We tell every rookie we have, your one goal is to make the ballclub. Nothing else."
Once a player has maintained his spot on a 53-man roster for half a season, Turner then will support the player purchasing a "moderately-priced car."
"We make dead sure our guys understand it," Turner said. "I hate to say this, but after you tell 'em two, three, four times, surely to goodness they've got it. You sure hope they do."
The best advice Boyd has been given is "ultimately you've got to listen to yourself" when it comes to managing his money, and understand the NFL career is a gift - a fluid agreement that can end anytime.
"So you want to be able to buy the fanciest cars, but you've obviously got to think rationally and think reasonably," Boyd said. "I know that can be difficult because you think you're going to play forever. But statistically speaking, you don't play as long as you intend to play, so that money has to last you a long time."
The Houston Texans’ Jadeveon Clowney poses for a photo shoot at the 2014 NFLPA Rookie Premiere at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum May 31 in Los Angeles.×
South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney (right) and Clemson’s Sammy Watkins both received multimillion-dollar signing bonuses, but most NFL rookies get much smaller contracts, often with no guarantees.×
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